pushing the limits. >> tonight the astoubding power of the human spirit. model lindsey s had it all and then last everything. >> i knew there was something wrong with my hands and feet. >> suddenly a quadruple amputee who couldn't even brush her own hair. tonight from the surgery, to being in a cross fit match. every step of this injury me. >> this special edition of "nightline," pushing the limits, will be right back. >> don't let dust and allergies get between you and life's beautiful
"nightline," pushing the limits. good evening. thank you for joining us. it's been said the human spirit is the strongest force there is. you're about to meet a woman who had it all. it all changed. and then a surgery gives her a new dream. now we have the story of one remarkable woman pushing the limits. >>
early 30s is a new bee to cross fit. in cross fit, teams that have space for athletes who look like this and like this also include athletes who have experienced severe injuries, and even lost limbs. like lindsey. but here's the thing about her that you might not be able to see. it's not just her legs that are, so to speak, borrowed. what's not obvious to the naked eye is that her hands, too, are a gift from someone else. a gift she had not yet received when we first met her six years ago. when this and this were part of her reality. >> the most common questions i get are how do you type and how do you text so fast. it's just, like, chicken picking. >> it was only in her mid 20s that she lost both her legs and both her arms. before that growing up she w
she even did some modelling. as a 24-year-old fresh out of college, lindsey had her eyes on a career producing fashion shows. you were on your way? >> yes. i would say that was my dreams as far as being an excellent student and was well-respected were definitely coming true. >> but then she got sick. a block in her small intestine from crohn's surgery. there was surgery an something went wrong, an infection that shut down her entire body. to save her life, doctors had to put her in a coma. when she came out of it a month later still in a haze -- >> i knew there was something wrong with my hands and feet. i would look down and i would see black almost, like, a body that had decomposed. >> the infection turned her extremities into dead tissue. >> there was a period of
where they didn't tell me they had to amputate but somebody from the staff said oh, honey, you know what they're going to do to your hands, right? that was when i knew. >> never night she found herself profoundly disabled. >> you don't have your hands now. >> or my feet. >> or your feet. >> what are the challenges? >> the challenges are independence, lack of control. >> getting her prosthetic legs on always required help from her mom who basically had moved back into her daughter's kwliervegs back to the kind of care that would have been their connection 20 years earlier. lindsey discovered a lot of things about herself that she did better emotionally by not focusing on the life that was gone, that she hates needing so much help. >> i can't wait to brush my own hair. >> i'm such an independent person. but then again i'm also grateful that i have a mother like that. i mean, what would i do? >> i want her to be able to, you know, touch me just the way
i touch her. >> she also learned that while she could adjust to the prosthetic legs, the arms were too heavy. >> these prosthetics are [ bleep ]. i can't do anything with them. you can't do anything behind your heavy. they're heavy. they're made for men. they're not feminine. they have claws. >> she realized so much of our independence, our heighty, even, is in our hands. >> i've accepted the fact that my feet are gone. that's acceptable to me. my hands, is not. it's still not -- in my dreams, i always have my hands. >> then she learned doctors had begun having success tra transplanting hands. in december 2009, lindsey had just started meeting with a transplant specialist who was willing to try the rare procedure of giving lindsey new real
>> will i be able to go behind -- >> yeah. hopefully you'll be doing your hair. >> lindsey worked out diligently, all part of the commitment she made to qualify for the transplant. >> have you fall snn. >> yeah. you have to fall and go through pain in order to achieve other things. >> she's tough in these moments working her body like this y. but back in her apartment she talks about her body and what she sees now in a different way. >> people used to turn and look at me when i walked down the street because of how beautiful i was. now they turn and look at me because i'm in a wheelchair and i have no hands or feet. >> what that has told her. >> what does it matter what my hair looks like? what does it matter what i'm wearing so much? >> but hands, they matter. not just as much as before. more. >> i try to defie what everybody else says is impossible. they said i wasn't going to live. they said i
walk. i'm going to walk. they said i won't have any hands. i'm going to have my hands. >> four months later, april 2011, i pay a visit to the doctor at the university of pennsylvania who talked about how complex a surgery lindsey signed on for. >> the hookup of the new hand is relying on her nerves growing into the new muscles from the donor. the nerves have to grow into those muscles which takes months, it can take a year. >> so you may or may not get truly functioning hands back. >> we tell patients, we can fail you. the operation can fail. >> what's failure? >> that means the part doesn't survive and we have to reamputate the transplant. >> the preferred donor is a female with hands the right size and skin that ma
become part. that was the part she found most difficult about the unnamed donor that everyone was waiting for. >> i hate thinking about that. >> why? >> because. i just do. yes. somebody out there is alive. >> you hate thinking about it because it means that person has to die? >> uh-huh. i think that whomever the hands will be, will be carried out with purpose. they're not just going to be used for to look pretty. >> september, 2011. >> my spirits are pretty good. we've been waiting for this for a long time. >> after four years without hands and a month on the waiting list, it's happened. someone died and her hands are being delivered to the doctor who has phoned lindsey telling her to get to
immediately. >> what did he say? >> there's a do mor for you. >> speed was critical. the surgery had to start within hours. >> the first thing we did was we prayed for the family who lost their young daughter. >> and then it begins. >> when we come back, lindsey's long journey from hospital bed to cross fit and her attempt to lift that massive barbell in competition. u'll ask what backache? what sore wrist? what headache? what bad shoulder? advil makes pain a distant memory. nothing works faster stronger or longer than advil it's the world's #1 choice.
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>> reporter: we're inside the conduct edge operation to give lindsey two new hands. it's september, 2011. >> separate skin, separate muscle biopsy. >> reporter: two separate taems working at once, one dedicated to the left hand, the other on the right. after 11 1/2 hours the surgery comes to an end. hours later lindsey wakes up with someone else's hands, now hers. >> have you looked yet? >> no. okay. >> i've only looked, peeked down at this one thumb. >> they feel like normal fingers, you know, normal hands. >> reporter: the initial signs are good. >> this is more we could ever hope for. her blood pressure is good. the parameters are good related to the blood flow in and out of her new arms. this is a picture perfect course so for. >> reporter: ahead for lindsey were
it easy. >> it's easier as i'm going. are you helping me? >> no, you're doing that. >> each repetition should get easier because you're getting looser. >> how many is this? >> this is only number two. >> reporter: as lindsey becomes acquainted with her newhands, tell me about when you first actually saw them, that they were yours. >> actually, the first couple days i didn't, i refused to look at them. >> reporter: how come? >> it was kind of like one of those scary movie kind of moments. you know, that's all it was. it was just like one of those i'm too scared to look because it's reality. >> reporter: but it's not a perfect reality. the surgeon had to leave pouchs of fat and sin kin on her arms. >> the skin color is never g
to your upper arms. that will always be that way? >> it's hard for me to answer questions like that. i'm just so grateful to have them, for them to not match is to me -- >> reporter: beside the point? >> yeah. >> reporter: four months after surgery, lindsey's doctors are amazed by the pace of her recover. they didn't expect fine motor control for another 12 to 18 months, but. >> to see this, this is encouraging. >> reporter: her muscles are reacting and she can pick up lightweight objects. finally she goes home with her prognosis getting better and better all the time. >> look add your extension. that's incredible. >> reporter: nine months after the surgery. >> straighten these out if you can. squeeze them. >> reporter: they could sense hot and cold. a tingling sensation that bothers her, nevertheless, indicates that nerves are growing back. the therapy continues. the dark pigment in her hands is fading away.
excess skin and fat has been removed all ahead of schedule. >> it's a muscle. and then if you'll let my pinky go too, i can move these two and at the same time you see -- >> reporter: and a year and a half after the surgery, there's one small thing she told us she aspired to do herself. >> i can't wait to brush my own hair. >> reporter: well, here it is. >> these are your hands now. they feel like your hands to you? >> reporter: i feel like they're zsh. >> i feel like they're a gift, and they're always going to be a gift. i mean, you can say that they're mine, but -- and they are mine, but they're still a gift. >> that's much better. >> reporter: we continued paying visits to lindsey, watching her get back the thinks she wanted most, her independence. just a few days ago when we
visited, it was clear that she is making the most of her new hands. >> reporter: how have you been? >> very good. >> reporter: how are you hands? >> hands are great. i'm still learning a lot with them. something different every day. >> reporter: it seems like an obvious question, but you do feel a great more independence than you did? >> yes. >> reporter: completely different? >> completely different. i mean, i'm -- 100% different. yeah. i mean, i drive. i live on my own. i have a dog. a house. to take care of cleaning, dishes, you know. >> reporter: it's all you and you're doing it yourself? >> i would like it to be all me, but some things are -- like i can't put my hair up or button blouses or jeans, tie shoes. you know, if i have to do changing of shoes or i want my hair a specific way, then my mom helps me, but -- and i'm not doing too well a
>> reporter: and now she has found cross fit which she loves. you're a pretty competitive person. >> yeah. to >> reporter: and you have this thing for taking on hard challenges. >> yeah. >> reporter: talk about hard. it has been hours and hours of workouts and specialized training. >> if you don't take chances in life, big chances, then big things aren't going to happen, so it's been working so far for me. i'm not going to just stop now. >> reporter: which brings us back to the moment of the lift, this was at a competition in arizona where lindsey worked through the physical challenges as a member of her team which is called the some assembly requirrequir required team. her goal was to pull 73 pounds with one arm in a dead lift. >> imagine lifting it with arms that aren't yours that are atch
stitches. >> reporter: she was struck by a funny thought. >> i love that scene. >> reporter: this one. >> he's going for a clean and jerk of over 1500 pounds. >> reporter: from a saturday night life years back. >> she's getting ready to dead lift and his arms rip off. and blood is everywhere. and he's talking while it's spraying blood. it's funny. every time i lift, i think about that. they're never going to do that. but it's funny to me to think about. >> reporter: there is no risk of that happening here. these hands are toettleztally ad to you. they're not going to give. >> never say never, but i have faith that they won't. >> reporter: and so lindsey went out onto the competition floor. an event honoring wounded veterans, athletes competing against each other regardless of disability, and look at how
hands served her. rowing, lifting, one exercise after the other. at the dead lift with the weight of 55 pounds, the clock defeated her. she could not get it done on time, and she left without the victory she wanted. >> the wheelchair one and the first one. still got 7th. >> reporter: well, not exactly. just because she could, lindsey stayed late and decided to try again to lift a weight she'd never tried before. load it up show told her spotter, it rose, 85 pounds with one hand, and a personal record. >> i didn't want to leave until i did that. >> reporter: and you did? >> and i did. >> reporter: because that's lindsay ess taking her world in hand and taking it to the max. for nig"nightline."
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who took on slavery takes over the 20 dollar bill. move over, andrew jackson, there's a few face in town and she's money. today announced harriet tubman will replace andrew jackson on the $20 bill. he's an american hero helping hundreds of slaves escape to freedom. the new bill is set to be designed by 2020, the hundredth anniversary of women's suffrage. she once said every dream begins with a dreamer. always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach the stars. to change
and i used to stare at them, hoping that maybe, when i grew up, they could be mine. but one day, they all broke. my mother fell into them when i told her i was marrying frank. but now i have my very own set. oh, thank you so much. ah, you're welcome. oh, thank you. come here, frank. let's not ruin the moment. oh, my... you spent so much. ma, don't worry about that, all right? but $240? those things cost $240? it's fine, robert. no, no, no. well, wait a minute-- how come you told me and dad that we only had to pay $30 each, while you paid one-- one hundred-- while you paid the rest? robert, your mother doesn't care who paid what.